Specification wise you’ve got a 1.2GHz ultra low voltage Pentium M backed up by 512MB of RAM – only 504MB is actually available since the Intel integrated graphics grabs 8MB. There’s a 60GB hard disk, but no integrated optical drive – another sacrifice that has to be made for the small dimensions.
You’ll have no problem getting connected when you’re out and about, with integrated 802.11a,b and g supported. There’s also integrated Bluetooth 1.2 in case you want to use your phone to get connected. That said, you can get specify the CF-18 with a GSM/GPRS module for cell based connection without the need for a phone. Like all Panasonic ToughBooks, you can specify a bespoke build if you’re purchasing over 100 units.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get the CF-18 to complete a SYSmark run, but that’s not necessarily a criticism of the notebook – SYSmark does just randomly refuse to run sometimes. However, Mobile Mark did run and the result was impressive to say the least – the CF-18 turned in a battery time of over six hours! With a notebook like this battery life is going to be paramount, since the user is going to be out in the field for extended periods of time.
As with all ToughBooks, the CF-18 doesn’t come cheap - £2,453.40 including VAT to be precise. But the cost of a machine like this can’t be compared to standard notebooks, because you only buy a ToughBook if you need a ToughBook. If all you’re doing is carrying your machine to the office and back, a ToughBook will be a bad investment. But if you’re working outside in the rain, snow and dust then the initial purchase cost of a ToughBook is your secondary concern.
The CF-18 is proof that a fully rugged notebook doesn’t have to be big and heavy. This little machine is every bit as tough as its big brother. The portrait mode might be useful for some users and it’s weight and dimensions will make it less of a burden if you have to trek around with it in your backpack all day. That said, unless you desperately need the rotating screen and tablet functions of the CF-18, I’d say that the slightly more expensive and larger CF-29 is a better bet – the larger keyboard and screen will make use in extreme conditions just that bit easier.